All Our Brothers and Sisters

Jews Saving Jews during the Holocaust

by Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz (Volume editor) Alan Schneider (Volume editor)
©2021 Edited Collection 334 Pages


The book focuses on the heroism of Jews throughout Europe who risked their lives to save their coreligionists under Nazi rule. The contributors discuss and analyze the actions of Jews who rescued other Jews from the hands of the Nazis. These actions took place, to different degrees, in Germany, in Axis states and all across Nazi-occupied Europe, from the early stages of persecution until the war’s end, in the framework of collaborative efforts and individual initiatives. The Jews who rescued other Jews during the Holocaust came like their non-Jewish counterparts from different backgrounds: men and women, old and young, religious and secular, wealthy and poor, educated and uneducated. The rescue missions took place in ghettos, areas without ghettos, jails, camps, hospitals, children’s homes, schools, monasteries, in hiding. This book focuses on these rescue missions and the people behind them, reminding us of their courage and willingness to act, even when it put their own lives in danger.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Dedication
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Belgium
  • A Closer Look at Jewish Resistance Members in Occupied Belgium By: Alain Blitz
  • From Insubordination to Resistance in the SS-Sammellager für Juden in Belgium
  • Jewish Double Agents in Belgium: CDJ (Jewish Defense Committee) Employees within the Jewish Council
  • Jewish Civil Resistance and the Slow Emergence of the Memory of the Holocaust in Belgium
  • The Netherlands
  • Hiding in Plain Sight: Gender, Faith, and the Conflicted Legacies of a Dutch Rescuer
  • “Even if We’ll Lose” – Jews Saving Jews in the Netherlands
  • The Palestine Pioneers and the Westerweel Group
  • France
  • OSE Fieldworker: Madeleine Dreyfus
  • Women in the Jewish Resistance in France
  • André Chouraqui: The Earthly Vocation of an Underground Ferryman
  • Italy and Greece
  • The Work of DELASEM for the Rescue of Italian and Foreign Jews (1939–1945)
  • Romaniote, Sephardic, and Mizrahi Jewish Rescuers in the Holocaust
  • Rescue in Ghettos and Camps
  • The Angel from Auschwitz: The Rescue Activities of Jacob “Jakitto” Maestro in Auschwitz
  • “A Steadfast Spirit”: The Rescue Work of Surviving Ghetto Fighters after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
  • Jewish Physicians in Ghettos and Camps Who Rescued Jews during the Holocaust, 1939–1945
  • Saving Jews in Buchenwald and Auschwitz: The Story of Chaskel Tydor
  • Other Areas of Rescue
  • The Bernese Group: A Major Joint Polish-Jewish Rescue Operation
  • Jews Rescue Jews: Immigration and Illegal immigration during the Holocaust
  • Contributors

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“For He will command his angels to protect you wherever
you go” (Psalms 91: 11)

In the course of more than 20 years during which I have promoted public awareness about rescue activities undertaken by Jews during the Holocaust – persecuted people who put their lives in even greater danger in Germany and Nazi-allied countries – I have been consistently awed by the vast scope of courageous actions undertaken by some Jews in valiant efforts to save the lives of fellow Jews. These actions took place, to different degrees, in Germany, in Axis states and all across Nazi-occupied Europe, from the early stages of persecution until the war’s end, in the framework of collaborative efforts and individual initiatives.

Hundreds of corroborated stories have crossed my desk over the years, leading to the incontrovertible conclusion that Jews were directly responsible for the survival of tens, and probably hundreds, of thousands of fellow Jews under the most dangerous conditions imaginable. One has only to look at the successful Jewish rescue networks in France, Belgium, Holland, Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary to conclude, as Prof. Patrick Henry has, that considering the prevailing conditions, Jews did far more than any other vanquished peoples in Europe to resist Nazi oppression. Jews should be proud of this fact.

One of the most extraordinary episodes of Jewish rescue during the Holocaust was undertaken by the Zionist Youth Resistance Movement in Hungary, made up of representatives of four ideologically diverse Jewish youth movements. Initial steps were taken in February 1944 with committee members being assigned specific activities and responsibilities in the event of a German invasion of Hungary, such as building bunkers, stockpiling food, procuring weapons and obtaining the appropriate documents for underground activity. They had the foresight to understand that Hungary’s Jewish population of 900,000, in addition to 70,000 Jewish refugees, was practically all that remained of European Jewry. The leadership saw it as its obligation to rescue Hungary’s Jews and foil the plot of the Germans and their collaborators to exterminate them. By the ←13 | 14→time the Germans entered Hungary on March 19th, 1944, they were ready to act, formally establishing the movement that same day and ordering adult members over the age of 17 to assume an Aryan identity and go underground. Under their new identity, the anti-Jewish laws that were to follow would not apply to them, and they would be free to save others. The Movement rescued some 15,000 Jews by smuggling them across the Romanian border towards Mandatory Palestine, hiding thousands clandestinely in and around Budapest, providing the means for others to live under assumed identities and establishing 55 children’s homes under the protection of the Red Cross flag in which some 6,000 children survived the war.

Through my work on Jewish rescue I have come to know in person or through the materials I have been exposed to, Jews from all walks of life and across all the Nazi-controlled areas in Europe and even into North Africa, who seized - and in some cases created - opportunities through which they were able to extend some prospect of hope to their fellow Jews. Each and every one of these heroes is an inspiration to me and to the many thousands who have been touched by our educational efforts over the years. Of the few who are still alive in Israel, I wish David Gur (Hungary), Wolf Galperin (Auschwitz), Fanny Ben-Ami (France), Eliezer Lev Zion (France), and Sara Fortis (Greece) long life and health.

The rescuers represented all walks of Jewish life: religious leaders such as Rabbi Shimon Moshe Pessach in Volos, Rabbi Nathan Cassuto in Florence, Rabbi Elias Barzilai in Athens and Rabbi Zalman Schneerson in France; community leaders and activists such as Otto Komoly, Joel Brand and Hansi Brand in Hungary, Abusz Werber in Belgium, Recha Freier in Germany and Yona Eckstein in Slovakia; doctors and medical staff such as nurse Luba Blum-Bielicka in the Warsaw ghetto, Dr. David Rodrigues de Miranda in Amsterdam, Dr. Gisella Perl in Auschwitz, Dr. Hadassah Bimko-Rosensaft in Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen, Dr. Asaf Atchildi in Paris, Dr. Pessia Kissin in the Kovno ghetto and many ordinary people who had the courage and took the opportunity to act.

2020 is undoubtedly a bumper year in the annals of the efforts of the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust and the B’nai B’rith World Center-Jerusalem to further public awareness in Israel and around the world about the phenomenon of Jewish self-rescue. One watershed event was Yad Vashem’s adoption of the topic of rescue by Jews during the Holocaust as the theme for the 2020 Holocaust ←14 | 15→Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day (under the title “Solidarity in a Disintegrating World”), which was marked throughout Israel and the Jewish world, though muted by the impact of the Coronavirus. For the first time in the 69 years since the remembrance day was set in law, Jewish rescue was the featured theme – a significant development.

The second watershed for us in 2020 was the consolidation of BarIlan University’s “Jews Saving Jews” Forum under the Arnold and Leona Finkler Institute of Holocaust Research. The Forum represents the development of an idea I first proposed to the Committee as long as a decade ago – the establishment of an academic advisory committee to reinforce our work in the public sphere to ensure that our understanding of historical events meet the highest standards. The publication of this book, to be followed by a conference showcasing some of the vast array of research represented in this volume, will undoubtedly draw further academic and public interest to Jewish rescue efforts during the Holocaust, something we seek in earnest.

Two main activities undertaken and inspired by the Committee are a unique annual Yom HaShoah ceremony and the Jewish Rescuers Citation. The ceremony has been held for the past eighteen years by the B’nai B’rith World Center and the Jewish National Fund at the B’nai B’rith Martyrs Forest – the first site established in Israel, and perhaps the world, to commemorate the Six Million - and is the only event dedicated annually to the legacy of Jewish rescuers. Since its establishment in 2011 and until today (June 2020) the Jewish Rescuers Citation, presented by the Committee and the World Center, has recognized more than 325 Jews who risked their lives in Germany and Nazi-allied territories to rescue fellow Jews or risked their lives to redeem Jewish children from non-Jewish institutions and adoptive families immediately following the War. Some of these individuals are featured in this book, which expands the boundaries of “rescue” beyond the narrow definition of the Citation.* However, not all the rescuers mentioned in the book have received the citation and some are, a priori, ineligible for it because they were not active in Germany or Axis countries.

There are many people I need to thank for their inspiration, cooperation and hard work during the two decades during which I have been engaged in promoting the legacy of Jewish rescuers during the Holocaust – far too many to include in this brief preface. Some, though, cannot go unmentioned. Haim Roet, Founding Chairman of the Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust is a moving force ←15 | 16→who initiated me to this subject and steered our efforts until recently promoting younger leadership to the helm. Haim is a Dutch survivor who lost close relatives to Nazi persecution but was rescued as a child by brave Jews and non-Jews in the Dutch underground. Only later in life and after establishing the monumental Holocaust remembrance project “Unto Every Person There is a Name” in which I was a partner, did he feel incensed that his Jewish rescuer had received no recognition from the Jewish people – a fact that he was able to rectify at Max “Nico” Leons’ surprise 90th birthday party in Amsterdam when Haim presented him with our Jewish Rescuers Citation.

B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin was an early supporter of my passion to promote the legacy of Jewish rescuers and supported a resolution I proposed to the B’nai B’rith Board of Governors in 2003 dedicating our organization to “engage in efforts to uncover unknown stories of Jewish rescuers and commemorate their bravery.” B’nai B’rith World Center Chairman Dr. Haim V. Katz is a consistent champion of our activities along with the World Center Board members. Dr. Mordecai Paldiel, a Holocaust survivor, former director of the Righteous Among the Nations Committee at Yad Vashem and author of the seminal book on Jewish rescue “Saving One’s Own” has been a major source of support while still at Yad Vashem and since then.

I also wish to thank incoming Commttee chairman Arie Barnea and other committee members for their dedication to our common cause: Committee Co-Chair Yuval Alpan, Noa Gidron, Dr. Tsilla Hershco, Chana Arnon, Esther Reiss-Mosel, Ilana Drukker, Dr. Ilan Baer, Ido Gilad, Shoshana Langerman, Genya Markon and Dr. Yehudit Ronen. Professor Patrick Henry, editor of “Jewish Resistance Against the Nazis” and Dr. Bert Jan Flim, two academics who have published widely on Jewish rescue, have contributed profoundly to our knowledge on the subject. Yad Vashem Director General Dorit Novak and her executive team that has met with our committee regularly over the past three years to develop ideas for promoting the legacy of Jewish rescuers and the 2020 central theme, despite a history of being at odds with us on the appropriate position of Jewish rescue in the overall realm of Holocaust historiography and commemoration, deserve our sincere vote of gratitude.

JNF-KKL World Chairman Daniel Atar and past chairmen, along with senior staff Sar-Shalom Gerbi, Dudu Ashkenazi and Eli Yadid, have been outstanding partners in organizing our joint annual Yom HaShoah ←16 | 17→ceremony – ongoing since 2002 – that has provided a platform for outreach to thousands of young people, the main target of our educational activities.

Last but not least, I wish to thank Professor Judy Tydor Baumel-Schwartz for her immediate embrace of our outreach to the Finkler Institute that has led to the establishment of the Forum and the publication of this important book that will undoubtedly be a milestone in the research of Jewish rescue and its accessibility to academics and the public at large.

I wish to end this preface, written in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic, by dedicating it to the memory of Frida Wattenberg, a member of the French Jewish Resistance who smuggled Jewish children from France to Switzerland and received the Jewish Rescuers Citation on 23 September 2019 at her residence at the Rothschild Retirement Home in Paris. Frida died there of Covid-19 complications on 3 April 2020 at age 96. May her memory and the memory of all Jewish rescuers be an inspiration to all those who hold Jewish and human solidarity dear.

Alan M. Schneider, Director, B’nai B’rith World Center, Jerusalem and founding member, Committee to Recognize the Heroism of Jewish Rescuers During the Holocaust


Jerusalem, June 2020

*Accumulative criteria for granting the Jewish Rescuers citation

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By: Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz

“It often began towards the end of the evening roll call. That’s when the guards would single out individuals or groups for punitive exercises in Buchenwald. Their numbers would be called and they would be made to run on hills of gravel, huge hills that one had to climb up and roll down while the guards jeered.”

“Sometimes I was chosen, and on one of these occasions I lost consciousness from exhaustion. At great risk to himself my blockaltester Erich Eisler stepped out of line, picked me up, and carried me to the hospital, telling the head prisoner there, a Jewish communist like him, that I was a friend who was to be kept alive. Eisler risked his life and saved mine. Had he not done so, the guard would have shot me a few moments later. What was amazing was that he didn’t shoot Eisler for what he did.”

This story, one of the earliest that I heard from my father about his wartime experiences in Buchenwald and Auschwitz, encapsulates the essence of this book: the phenomenon of Jews rescuing Jews during the Holocaust, saving other Jews from the Nazis and their collaborators, often risking their own life, and for no material gain.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2021 (April)
Jewish heroism Nazi rule Holocaust
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 334 pp., 20 fig. b/w.

Biographical notes

Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz (Volume editor) Alan Schneider (Volume editor)

Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz is the director of the Finkler Institute of Holocaust Research and professor of Jewish history at Bar-Ilan University. She is the author of numerous books and articles and specializes in topics pertaining to gender, Jewish religious life, the Holocaust, memory, State of Israel, The United States, and commemoration. Alan M. Schneider is the director of the B’nai Brith World Center in Jerusalem. He is a founding member of two international Holocaust memorial projects: "Unto Every Person There is a Name" and of "The Committee to Recognize Jews who Rescued Jews During the Holocaust" and initiated the "Jewish Rescuers Citation" and the "Jews Rescuing Jews" Forum at Bar- Ilan University’s Finkler Institute of Holocaust Research.


Title: All Our Brothers and Sisters